It’s in Their Head.

So, I’ve been reading a lot about the stigma of mental illness, and the more I read and study, the more I’m shocked and disheartened by the attitude of people towards the likes of me:  a mentally ill woman with Bipolar and Anorexia (in ‘remission’ but still something I have to fight daily in terms of making myself eat enough and stay healthy).

First, let’s talk about what stigmas are; if you look at the Oxford Dictionary for a definition, here’s what you find:

“A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”

Take a close look at this sentence, Peeps.  “A mark of DISGRACE.”  Really?  In this day and age, we are still considered ‘disgraceful?’  Or let’s use other synonyms to further understand this:  shameful, despicable, bad.  I should be ashamed to have a brain disease?  It makes me despicable?  It makes me bad?  Wow.

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Prejudice is pre-JUDGING.  PRE-judging.  Putting people in groups based on certain characteristics then lumping them all together under an umbrella of adjectives.  “The rich are all stingy.”  “The poor don’t want to work.”  “All teenagers all use drugs.”  Nope.  None of these are true.  There might be some individuals that have these characteristics, but not all!  Now, here’s the one we MI’s might hear:  “The mentally ill are just crazy.  They should be locked up!”  “Those homeless guys make me nervous…you know they’re just nuts.”  “I know that if someone is schizo, they’ll hurt you!”  And on and on and on.  Then, because of these prejudicial stereotypes, discrimination follows – these ideas are acted out by the people that have them, and suddenly, we’re treated differently.

I read an excellent article entitled:  The Stigma of Mental Disorders by Wulf Rossler.  In this, he states the following:  “There is no country, society or culture where people with mental illness have the same societal value as people without a mental illness.”  He also writes that people with mental illness internalize societal stigmas, and then experience diminished self-esteem and self-efficacy as a result.  Non wonder so many of us feel bad about simply being who we are.

In another article entitled: Prejudice Towards People with Mental Illness, the authors say 4 factors have been identified that underlie prejudice towards people with mental illness (my explanations of these are in the parenthesis):  fear/avoidance (people being scared of the MI and then staying away because they’re considered dangerous), malevolence (highly negative thoughts against the MI and thinking they are bad), authoritarianism (the MI should be controlled by society), and unpredictability (who knows what they’ll do?).  So, in a nutshell:  people fear us…try to avoid us…think we’re bad or inferior…think we need to be controlled…think our behavior is always unpredictable.  Wow again.

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So.  I’m literally sitting here right now, trying to think of what to say, and I’m drawing a blank.  Not writer’s block.  But a blank of how us MI can been seen so freaking negatively for having disorders we can’t help.  But then, I think about racism, and how skin color changes a person’s opportunities and treatment in our culture drastically.  How our gender puts us in boxes with very clear expectations and assumptions.  How our social class determines the way people see us, treat us, and either look up to us or down to us, just based on what we might have in our bank account.  How can any of this be possible?  How can anybody be judged by others who could be judged themselves.  I just don’t get it.

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What have YOU been told to do?

And yes, I’ve definitely felt the consequences of these stigmas.  You know, in the 23 years I’ve taught at my school, I’ve only been asked to lunch twice.  Twice.  People get in groups and eat together all of the time, with me watching my colleagues in adjoining offices getting ready to go out while joking around.  But I’m not asked.  I think it’s because I can be loud…overly sensitive…overly eager.  When a student threatened to rape me and turn me into a lamp shade (his words), I was blamed.  After all, I’m the sicko.  Right?  The crazy and unpredictable one.  So, of course MY bipolar had to be the reason for HIS threat.  When I’m struggling with depression or having difficulty with suppressing my feelings, I’m simply ignored.  It’s just too uncomfortable for others to be around or address.  In fact, according to one colleague, mental illness isn’t real.  They say:  “Just cheer up!  Damn, others have it a lot worse than you do.”  Or here’s a good one that really makes me feel better:  “What the fuck!   Quit being so damn sensitive.”  (I’ve heard that more times than I can count).  Or how about this gem: “God, here goes Kristi AGAIN, just looking for more attention.”  Or my truly favorite one:  “What the fuck is the matter with you?”

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I can so relate to this.

It’s not my imagination; I know I’m treated differently than others since I’ve ‘come out’ and really started talking about my mental illness.  I’m not taken as seriously.  Sometimes I’ll be talking in a meeting at school, and someone talks over me and I just have to shut up and not contribute.  Or, I’ll be in a bad depression but try to hide it from family members because I don’t want them to think I’m not trying to be ‘better’.  In fact, I have family members that won’t even talk about it at all, while others have told me:  “You’re going to beat this!”  No, I’m not.  I’m going to fight it, but I’m not going to beat it; this is who I am, and who I have been for as long as I can remember. {Shout out here to my mom, son and sister:  they are awesomely supportive of me.  My rocks.}

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I feel different than others.  I see things differently.  I think about things differently.  But when I try to express that to people, I’m shut down.  And to be a part of the conversation, I just have to nod and pretend that their ideas are mine too.  Sometimes I think I should just build a bubble around myself to protect people from having to be around me.  Uncomfortable around me.   Wary around me.

But, there is a light.  You know the friend I talked about in my last post?  While we were talking about what having bipolar is like, I told him I did feel so different..so out of place…so at odds with others.  And after thinking for a minute, here’s what he said:  “Kristi, you are different.  You light up a room when you walk in.  Not many do that.”

You know, like Elton says in ‘Rocketman’:  “I’m OK with different”.  Maybe someday, we can all share that sentiment.

Kristi xoxo

 

Invasion of the Monster.

So, a friend and I were yacking yesterday, and we were talking about what being bipolar is like.  He truly wanted to know what went on in my head and how it felt to be me.  Very few people have ever asked me this, so it felt really good for someone to be so interested that they asked me for my personal experience with it, as opposed to textbook definitions.

Here’s what I told him:  “When I’m manic, it’s like a blender with ice, fruit, and juice, on high, with no lid…just spraying around the kitchen.”  But really, in this scenario, the juice has an outlet…it’s escaping the blender.  I can’t escape my blender…the ingredients (thoughts & emotions) just keep coming back and getting spewed out again and again.

Then I said this about depression:  “It’s like there’s a monster with heavy metal chains that grabs my mood, reels it in, and makes me sink so low during this process that I can’t escape.”

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After listening to this, he said it helped him understand it more, but he had something to confess (Ought oh…I’ve heard that phrase before).  His ex-wife had depression and would spend days in their bed, refusing to even get up to eat dinner or walk around.  He said it would tick him off, that he just wanted her to GET UP and try.  He said he feels guilty now, that after learning more about depression, he was so hard on her when she was down.

First, I can understand him feeling guilty.  As much as I want people to understand bipolar and take that into consideration, I don’t always reciprocate well.  Ex-partner has a personality disorder:  I thought for a long while it was Narcissistic Personality Disorder since his treatment of me mimicked narcissistic relationships in terms of idealize, devalue, and discard (he repeated this cycle multiple times).  A couple of months ago, he got formally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder which actually does make more sense while considering other issues in his life.  Anyhoot, I knew he had a personality disorder along with the PTSD from his military tours.  But here’s the thing, I would get impatient with him.  I’d try to change what I was seeing by getting angry with him and telling him what he should be doing instead.  I’d respond to his irrational behavior by yelling at him and holding grudges.  (On the flip side, he’d do the same:  get mad at me when I was ‘too emotional’…get frustrated when I was bouncing off the walls).

So why did I do this in response to his behavior?  Like my counselor has said to me before:  “He’s Borderline…what did you expect from him?”  Yikes.  She’s right.  Right as rain.  Just like I’m bipolar, what the hell do you expect from me?   I’m gonna be up and I’m gonna be down.  BUT the behavior that results from mental illness can be frustrating, hurtful, embarrassing, anger provoking, etc. to others in our lives.  It’s hard to deal with people like us!  It’s hard for others to understand us when we can’t always understand ourselves.  I get angry at me.  I get frustrated by me.

Back let’s go back to my monster and depression.  I do believe my monster is very very strong.  However, I can’t lay down and always let him win;  it’s time I started fighting back.  You know, there’s not many times in my life where I’ve been a fighter against people who were hurting me.  When I was being bullied in grade school, my sister always protected me so I never had to fight back.  When the psychologist I was seeing at 16 sexually abused me for 2 years, I didn’t fight back out of fear and a misplaced sense of loyalty.  When I was bullied my Jr. and Senior years in high school, I just tried to look away and make myself as inconspicuous as possible.  When ex was cheating on me, I apologized for my role in it.

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I never really fought.  But guess what?  No more.  Let’s all say it together:  “NO MORE!” I fight that fucking monster, my biggest adversary, with as much as I can muster.  When he’s dragging me down so far I can barely see any light, I grab that chain and pull up with all I have.  Link.  By link.  By link.  And then, magically, my feet the floor in the morning.  Then Edward comes running to me to let him and Dottie out; so I hug my pooches and let them out to pee in the backyard (and eat poop).  Then I have to let them back in and that propels me for a walk to the bathroom where I hop into the shower.  Get it?  I’m tugging back on that depression monster little by little.  And, those little tugs are making me function.  Making me ‘do’.  Making me feel not so much at the mercy of him showing me only darkness.   I have vowed that he will NOT keep me so down ever again that I stand in the middle of my floor for hours, not knowing what to do with all that’s in my mind.

Look, bipolar is a brain issue.  My brain is different.  I can’t help the roller coaster this brain has set me on; just like someone with a migraine isn’t to blame.

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It’s not that I’m going to suddenly ‘cheer’ up and be happy.  But yes, I can push myself little step by little step and show that monster Kristi is still here.  Me.  And that I’m going to take as much control as I possibly can; count my small victories and celebrate them.  Just knowing that I’m fighting  back makes me feel stronger,  which makes me feel ‘better’ in the midst of this depression.

I’ve had enough ‘monsters’ in my life that I haven’t fought against and I’ve decided I’m not ever going to bow down to anyone (or anything) again.  I’m going to fight.  I’m going to do all I can with all I have to get wins in these battles.  And at the same time, I’m going to get a little piece of myself off of that fucking roller coaster.  That son-of-a-bitch monster has led me on this ride for too long.  It’s time for me to start taking over at least a few of the controls.

Kristi xoxo

Don’t Fence me In.

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So, my counselor and I had an excellent conversation today, and I really look forward to seeing her every week!  Yea!

Anyhoo…we are talking about relationships, because as you know from my last post, me and relationships just don’t get along too well.  Let’s put it this way:  I have a 100% fail rate for them!  ‘Nuff said.

As we were talking about the ‘why’ behind all of my relationships ending, I began to see so many of my problems lie in the fact that my boundaries are pretty poor.  In fact, if my boundaries were a fence, even a chihuahua could escape.  Easily.  Having bad boundaries makes it very easy for people to get in.  And for me to get out.

One of the many ‘wonderful’ characteristics of being bipolar is impulsiveness.  And I’m not talking impulsive as in buying a new shirt I don’t really need.  I’m talking about impulsiveness throughout every area of my life, including relationships.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve never done things half way.  I do them the entire way, and then some, or I don’t do them at all.  When I was 30-something, I was still carrying around baby weight (from a 65 pound gain…I couldn’t eat just one Oreo when I was preggers, I had to eat the whole damn sleeve) and wanted to lose it.  I called my dad who had been a runner since I could remember, and we met at a track.  I couldn’t finish an 1/8th of a mile, so I did what any rational person would do.  I signed up for a marathon.  When I started acrylic pour painting, it wasn’t enough to create a canvas or 2.  I had to buy every painting supply known to man…fix up a studio in my basement…and make so many canvases that I’ll be giving them out as Christmas gifts long after I’m in a nursing home.  See what I mean?

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I do the same thing in relationships.  I jump in…without looking…without thinking…without considering the consequences of what that jump could do to me.  Once I’m in, I’m in.  I fall too quickly.  I love too hard.  I give too much.  I want even more.  And the problem is this:  once I get outside that boundary which should be in place to protect me, I’m VERY hesitant to get back behind the little fence there is.  After all, freedom is better!  Take my Edward.  He’s such a good dog, but if I’m taking out the trash, and leave the gate open, he’ll take off and never look back.  I can tempt him with every known treat, and he’ll still value that freedom more than the safety of home.  Even though it’s dangerous!  Even though it’s unknown!  Even though something could happen to him that could cause great injury!  For some reason, being outside of a gate is so much more fun than being inside it.

Like Eddie, I want that gate open, especially in relationships!  The simple fact is, I love love.  I hope you read that correctly…let me try it again:  I LOVE love.  🙂  I love falling in lust…building up love…getting to know someone…unlocking the secrets of someone…cuddling with someone…knowing I have someone in this world just for me.  Little old me.  OK, little OLD me.

It’s intoxicating, isn’t it?  That first tug of the heart.  The first kiss you share when your heart is beating so hard you wonder if it will ever be the same again.  But like anything intoxicating, it can be so dangerous too.  1ce81319ae2fb2a691e22822a6618feb

We learn to ‘feed’ off the impulsiveness.  It becomes almost addicting.  It becomes something to us that puts us in a tunnel.  And then all we can see is that tunnel and the person in it with us.  We can’t see the dangers associated with it, just like a drug addict might not see the consequences of their use.  Our rational mind has been blinded, and our impulsive, emotional side has taken control; face it, it’s MUCH more exciting to listen to our hearts than to our heads.

Hence, people like me put up with a lot of things they shouldn’t.  After all, we slid ourselves into this tunnel, we’d better learn to like it; we ran outside the gate, we’d better take advantage of it.  So we’ll let people say horrible things to us without calling them on it.  We’ll let them use us:  financially, emotionally, and sexually, because saying no to them, trying to build up another fence while we’re out wandering around, is just too damn hard to do.  And anyway, whose got the time or tools for that?  We’ll let them cheat on us, with no consequence other than making them ‘promise’ they’ll never do it again.  We’ll let them put their hands on us, when we swore to ourselves that would never ever ever happen.

But after a while, you do get tired of this.  Tired of being in such a dark place.  Tired of exhausting yourself justifying to others your objection to leaving.  Tired of having a hollowness inside of you that nothing outside the safety of a fence will quench now.  Tired of looking in the mirror…and then looking away…because you don’t want to see, or acknowledge, the pain you can no longer hide in your eyes.  Tired of feeling less than.  Tired of feeling like a thing, instead of a person.  Tired of not being ‘you’ anymore.  You are just so fucking tired.

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Since my last relationship ended, I have come to understand that the safety of a fence is actually so much more comfortable and satisfying than running around without a leash.  I finally have gathered some tools now.  I finally have time now.  I have the know-how to build my fences, and keep them in repair.  I have the want to protect this person I’m getting to know better and better each day.  A person I’m actually starting to like.  Maybe loving myself is right around the corner.  Maybe I’m the ‘one’ I’ve been waiting for all my life.

I guess I’ve just come to the realization that I’m worth taking care of.  And if that’s not motivation to get busy nailing these boards together, I don’t know what is.

Kristi xoxo

What the Hell?

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So, I teach Sociology at our local community college, and now that the nation is practicing social isolation, I am working hard to get all of my on-campus classes switched to online learning.  This isn’t necessarily a big deal for me, since I’ve taught online classes forever, but as I’m working on lectures and content for my Sociology of Deviance class, I am getting a bit angry…perplexed…wondering about what we consider to be deviant in our culture.

First, deviance is an act or behavior that goes against societal norms (rules) we have in place; and it isn’t always an easy thing to recognize since it’s dependent on so many variables like culture, context, place, etc.  Also, a behavior/act isn’t necessarily considered deviant even if it goes strictly against a societal norm; instead, we take into consideration the ‘label’ society has placed on it; for example, does this behavior cause anger in people?  Scorn?  Disgust?   And finally, sometimes you don’t even have to ‘do’ anything to be labeled a deviant.  You simply ‘are.’  People with physical or mental disabilities are often considered deviant.  Labeling people like this as deviant stigmatizes them.  It connects them to negative stereotypes which can cause them to be ostracized ; looked down on as outcasts.

Now, think about this.  SOCIETY can ‘say’ a person is deviant simply because the person is ‘different’.  Or simply because the person ‘is’.  Because they exist.  Because they are them.   “Holy crap, Batman…what the hell is this?”

“Let me tell you, Robin.”  This means that ANYONE can be labeled deviant…have a stigma put on their head…and be treated as such at anytime in their lives.  Right?  First, let’s take a look at age, simply because (God willing) we will all experience this eventually in our lives.

Oh, Lord…I hate talking about age.  As a woman who is (cough cough) 53 (I know…that’s a really BIG number!), I have seen the way I’ve been looked at over the last 10 years or so, and can’t believe the difference!  When I turned 40, it was a celebration!  “Girl…you are in the prime of your life!!  40 is the new 30!”  Actually, it isn’t.  40 is 40.  30 is 30.  And so on…you get my point.  But when I turned 50?  I was almost ashamed!  What do you say to a 50 year old?  “Ummm…you look great FOR 50!”  That’s about it!  And what a horrible sentence to hear!!  Let me translate it for you:  “Kristi…I don’t know what else to say, so I’m going to tell you that you look OK for being 50…but if you were 40, you’d look like hell!”  Hmmmm…what a compliment.

Look in ANY women’s magazine.  Know what you see?  Products that work from the ground up to make sure nothing on you looks old.  Nothing.  We’re talking younger looking feet (which I rarely show off)  to younger looking hair.  And face creams?  If I tried everyone that was advertised AND that promised to wipe away my years, I’d go broke.  Quickly.

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But why would I want to ‘wipe away’ my years?  Why is it deviant to get old?  Why does society tell us our worth is less as we grow up more?  Why is a natural aging process a bad thing?  And why, because of these messages, should us older people (more so for women than men in our society…much more so) feel guilty if we have wrinkles?  I don’t get it.

Mental illness is considered deviant too.  Because face it, being mentally ill makes others feel uncomfortable.  We’ve all heard the words.  At least I have.  People use crazy or nuts as a synonym for bipolar all of the time.  Even Katy Perry, in her song Hot and Cold, says “…love bipolar” for a crazy type of unhealthy/game playing love.  So, I’m deviant because I’m mentally ill too?  Because I have a brain disease I did absolutely nothing to get?  Because I might cry?  Or be angry?  Or be depressed?  Or be manic?  These make people uncomfortable?  Scornful?  So I’m LABELED deviant.  LABELED.

Guess what labels do?  Labels make us see ourselves through that mirror.  Like sociologist Charles Cooley described in his “Looking Glass Self” theory, we see how we appear to others, and reflect back what we’ve perceived.  Don’t believe me?  Then why are so many people ‘ashamed’ to talk about their mental illness?  Reluctant to let their friends know how much they are suffering on the inside?  Hesitant to tell people they’ve dated for a while because they fear it will negatively affect their relationship?  Afraid they will be treated differently by colleagues?  Worried they might be passed over for promotions?  Embarrassed to say their Dr.’s appointment is with their psychologist?  Humiliated when words like ‘psycho’ are used to describe behavior tied to their own mental illness?

And for people who have cut…have attempted suicide (2 other groups I fall into)?  Wow.  The stigma is fierce!  How dare I have been in so much psychological pain, that I felt the only relief came from using a razor blade on my legs.  How could I have hurt myself, even though the physical hurt took away some of my mental hurt?  AND, what an awful person I am that I was in so much pain and so much anguish, that I truly felt, at that time, being with my grandma and grandpa in heaven was better than my life on earth.

These labels…this stigma…is something we have to endure.  Not because of what we have.  But because of how we’re seen through the attitudes people have.  Opinions.  Reactions.

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Dammit.  I don’t know about you and what you might endure in terms of stigmas, but I’m tired of feeling ‘less than’ over issues I can’t help.  Yes, I’m old.  Yes, I’m mentally ill.  And that’s just to name 2, or this blog post would be so long, I’d have carpal tunnel after all the writing (and probably be stigmatized for that as well).  And NO.  I will NOT be made to feel demeaned because of these things.  I refuse too.  I will continue to talk about being bipolar.  About why I used to cut.  About why I took a handful of pills.  About all of my struggles, and all of my successes.  I will do this again and again, because until we all speak out against stigmas (and in my case, mental illness stigmas), we will never see them gone.  Until we all learn to accept everyone for who they are…what they might have…how they might be ‘different’, we’ll never see the change I think we need to see most in this world.

Acceptance.

Kristi xoxo

The Battles We Fight.

So…!

Wait.  I need to stop here first and admit something:  I’ve always hated it when people begin paragraphs with so, and I get on my students all the time about this!  And, I just read an article about how using the word SO undermines how people see you.  BUT, it just seems SO handy and such a good intro, that it’s now going to be my signature move!  🙂

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SO, I went to a new psychiatrist this week; he is the over-seer of my counselor and she wanted me to have a ‘med check’ since this f%^&ing depression isn’t lessening at all, despite better personal circumstances AND being on my meds.  I liked him right off;  he was much more thorough with me than another I had seen, and really took his time explaining my options.  First, he told me that the anti-depressant I’m on now isn’t well indicated for bipolar.  I was put on this since Effexor is indicated for fibromyalgia (which I also have…go figure), but since that’s not as serious as the bipolar, he wants to change it in 3 weeks.  He did put me on a mood stabilizer which I am a bit nervous about.  I’ve been on Depakote and Lithium at times, and both gave me thoughts of suicide and self-harm.  I was too scared to try another, but he put me on Lamotragine which doesn’t have that particular effect.  He believes that getting on a stabilizer, as well as a new anti-depressant, will really help me with both my cycles and the depression.  He said I’ve basically been fighting this depression by myself…with no real ‘help’ at all in terms of my meds.  I can’t wait until I start feeling the benefits of the Lamotragine and once it’s had a chance to build up a bit, that’s when the other will be switched.  I’m optimistic!

You know, using the term ‘battle’ is an interesting choice of word, and one that fits for all of us at so many different times in our lives.  For some, the battle can be won and for others, it’s never over.  But we all fight them, and sometimes we forget that.

As much as I hate having bipolar, I also know how very lucky I am.  Things could be so much worse for me.  My mom’s bestie has Primary Lateral Sclerosis, a diagnosis that came after much testing at the Mayo clinic.  Prior to this, docs believed her to have Parkinsons.  This poor woman has suffered, and is suffering so much.  Her speech, her ability to eat, her physical dexterity and abilities, her pain, her weakening…everyday she faces challenges.  Here’s the thing though:  she is the most optimistic, positive woman when it comes to this disease, and she sends me messages all of the time offering ME support!  How does she do this?  How can she be fighting such a battle, and still be concerned with someone else?

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I think I know.  Because giving support is just as important in receiving it, no matter what you are facing.  After I post things on Facebook regarding issues I might be having, I get a ton of support, which boosts me and makes me feel better and less alone in whatever it is I’m going through.  Then, I get dozens of private messages from people who share their own struggles and issues with me, and I talk to them and help them the best I can.  Even if it’s just being a listening ear or validating their experience, or making them feel less alone.  More cared about.  Loved.  Important.  And the best thing is this:  doing this makes me feel better as well.  Not that that’s the purpose of me helping them, but it’s a nice extra consequence of doing so.  It reminds me how much we all deal with, whether it’s known or not.  That we are never alone.  There is always someone else out there struggling.

Sometimes I don’t know what to say, beyond “I care and I’m here.”  And I used to think this wasn’t enough.  I wanted to have answers for everyone!  I wanted to fix them!  I wanted to wave a magic wand and POOF, their lives would suddenly be OK!  But I realized that all I want when I’m needing support is hearing those words of care and concern myself.  I know my mental illness, or issues I might be dealing with won’t be fixed with some words.  But those words are still comforting to me.  Are still important to hear.  For all of us, at anytime.

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A drawback to recognizing and supporting others who are struggling is this:  guilt.  How can I talk about depression or being bipolar, when others are looking at painful, progressive, and potentially deadly diseases?  How can I lament my loneliness at not having a partner, and the grief I still feel at losing him, when others are embroiled in contentious divorces in which they could lose their children?  How can I cry over things in my life, when there are those being beaten regularly.  Raped?  Are homeless?  It makes me feel so small to think I make my problems sound important next to these.

But does another person’s suffering mean ours isn’t valid?  Who defines what constitutes suffering and what doesn’t?  Should I feel bad…for feeling bad?  Well, I do.  Then, that guilt and feelings of selfishness make me feel even worse about myself.  Talk about a circular pattern to get into.

But ultimately, a battle you fight is your battle.  It’s your pain.  It’s your life.  And that pain is valid.  Always.  It may not be as severe a pain as others feel.  But it’s still pain.  Your pain.  And it’s OK to acknowledge it.  OK to ask for support with it.  OK to reach out.  Just remember the others in the war as well.  They too need all we do.  Support, guidance, validation, love, help.  And by giving those, we help to get more to fight our own battles with;  and we become more compassionate, more understanding, more open.  Things that help us all.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

The Coronavirus and Mental Health.

So, we’re in the midst of this pandemic and there is so much information on the virus itself and the importance of social distancing and staying at home to contain it’s spread.  Of course I think that any measures taken to reduce the spread of this are necessary, but I do worry that the mental health issues associated with this isolation, for everyone and not just the mentally ill, aren’t being addressed as much as they maybe should be.

We are social creatures, aren’t we?  We need people and the groups around us (family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc.) to provide needed benefits – most importantly, meeting our emotional and social needs.  And since the isolation (both physical and emotional) and distancing we need to practice for at least the next couple of weeks is in place, I believe we are going to suffer mentally because of it.

Isolation and loneliness are 2 big concerns right now, particularly for the elderly and those who are already experiencing these issues.  And, I do believe we will see even more of an influence of these now.  You can be isolated and not lonely, and lonely and not isolated, but for many, these 2 things go hand in hand.  Choosing to be alone, and enjoying that time, is much different than being forced into isolation!  And people choose to be ‘alone’ among ‘groups’ often times anyway.  Going to the store, getting to the library, working out at a gym.  These might be done ‘alone’ or by yourself, but there are still people around who you can interact with to a degree.  Home-bound isolation is a different thing.  People can go from alone to lonely pretty quick in this circumstance.  Take a look at this article published in 2019 on social isolation which states:

There is…”evidence linking perceived social isolation with adverse health consequences including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life.”  “In addition…(it was) found that social isolation increases the risk of premature death from every cause for every race…”.
Obviously, this is for more long-term isolation, but the implications are clear.  Isolation has a huge consequence on people and their health.  

Families are also suffering.  My mom lives by herself and has a very active social life.  With so many fears of the virus regarding the elderly, mom and her friends have cancelled their weekly activities.  I know this is going to affect her mood, and I worry she’ll go out to a store or something, just to be around people which can put her at risk.  As much as my sis and I tell her not too, she’s very stubborn.  Since I was in Florida for a week and flew out of Tampa which is a ‘hotbed’ of the virus, I don’t want to be around her just in case I have the virus without showing signs yet.  So, we are isolated from each other too.

My sister is worried about her grandchildren as well, and looks forward to seeing them often during the week.  Missing out on that interaction is hard for all of them.  Plus, one of my nephews has a serious condition which could require medical attention at any time.  How scary that hospitals might be over-run and medical attention is delayed.  Not being to be around our families is a great hardship for so many! 

And then you add other factors into the mix:  fear, anxiety, stress, confusion, helplessness, and powerlessness to name a few.  We all, I think, are feeling these to some degree.  As much as the news upsets me regarding all of what’s happening right now, I don’t want to stay away from it either since I need information to keep myself and family safe!  It’s a Catch 22!  The news makes us more stressed and fearful, but the info provided is important! 

Anytime you see stress increase, you see a greater likelihood of domestic violence and child abuse.  Will this time increase the already huge numbers of victims of family violence?  And, we know that high levels of stress can cause physical sickness (high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.).  Furthermore, the stress isn’t going to end after the isolation is lifted.  Businesses are losing customers or closing down for a period of time, and economists are saying we’ll suffer a strong recession which will continue this stress for an extended period of time.   And, I know that stress over money is one of the BIGGEST stressors a couple faces in their relationship. 

I really worry that for the mentally ill, these issues can exacerbate their conditions.  Making anxiety disorders worsen, depression to deepen.  Also, will counselors or behavioral health centers stop seeing clients?  Will meds get filled on time?   Will AA and NA meetings be able to continue? Then what about people who are schizophrenic and have paranoid delusions?  Will this worsen their thinking with all of the conspiracy theories circling around right now? 

Finally, I also wonder how our world, our own society, will be changed because of this time.  Will we continue more isolating behaviors out of fear another virus could be around the corner?  Will people start getting more and more of their needs met through non-contact ways such as social media?  Will students, who have never taken online classes but are now forced to work online for at least a couple of weeks, find the classes to be more convenient and our on-campus students numbers decrease?  Will people become disgusted with society because how some are behaving, and come to see society as a more dangerous place than they had perceived it before?  The questions are endless.

So, what do I think we can do to lessen some of these effects?  Here’s my list:

  1. Stay on a schedule.  Get up at a regular time, have a daily plan with meals, work, etc. and structure your time accordingly.  
  2. Get outside!  Sidewalks, parks, hiking trails…none of these are closed and being outside, and especially around nature, can be comforting and uplifting.
  3. Do some cardio!  Those of us with depression know that cardio actually increases the production of endorphins and neurotransmitters, and improves sleep too!  All of this can help alleviate feelings of depression!
  4. Keep connected to family and friends.  This is a great time to use social media for connection (but be careful, too much social media use can backfire…particularly with so many loud opinions being broadcast!).  Also, instead of calls or texts, video chat for a more personal experience.  
  5. Help others.  Reach out to your older neighbors and let them know you are willing to run errands for them or get their refills picked up.  Let them know you are around if they need something done!
  6. Tackle yard and house chores.  I’m going to use some of my time to get my darn closets cleaned out and then get my yard all raked for spring.  Things I have trouble finding time to do!  Put these chores on your calendar to keep you on track!
  7. Take breaks from work.  Working remotely, as some of us are doing, is very different than being in an office or around students.  Make sure you take breaks from the computer often, and don’t try to do 8 hours of work in 3 just to get done!  Spacing out your time can help relieve the tediousness.
  8. Try a new hobby.  You don’t need to go to the store to get a pencil and paper…watch a youtube video on drawing and see what you can do!  Or, if you have some supplies (paints, crayons, glue, yarn, fabric), learn to crochet or knit…watercolor…decoupage!  
  9. Give yourself a break!  This is important…being around kids, family, etc. in a close environment can be stressful, and taking a short walk, nap, or just a time-out might help with these situations.  
  10. Keep your kids structured and engaged as well.  There are so many places publishing free content for kids right now, and doing these activities together can be fun!  Here’s a great website to give you some activity ideas, and then a fun e-learning site with a ton of lessons.  And, take a look at this:  

There are so many questions we have…and not a lot of answers.  But I do believe these issues are going to have a huge impact on everyone’s mental health, and possibly worsen those already dealing with an mental illness.  Let’s all take care of ourselves and families the best we can, and reach out if we need help.  Stay healthy and safe and if you have any other ideas to share, please comment below!

Kristi xoxo

The Importance of being Honest.

So, I’m cycling through a pretty bad depression right now.  It started in the Fall, and it’s been hanging on a long while.  Hopefully, I’ll start to be back up again soon, but with bipolar, you can never tell.  And depression is a hard fight, because so much of it is out of our control.

Depression (and mania) aren’t ‘moods’…they are states.  And there’s a big difference there, one I wish was recognized more because calling ‘depression’ a MOOD disorder isn’t technically correct.

Moods are temporary feelings of whatever emotion is there:  happiness, sadness, grieving, gloomy, cheerful, energetic, and the list goes on.  And we all experience a huge range of moods!  We have happy days and sad days, but those days don’t last.  The SITUATION underlying the emotion (which causes the feelings that are ‘saturated’) doesn’t last, because for the most part, that’s what they are based on.  Getting a raise makes me feel happy.  Getting rejected makes me feel sad.  But, these moods pass as others take their place.  That’s why people will say to those who are sad:  “Cheer up…this will pass.”  And they are right!  It will pass.  Although I think saying “Cheer up” nullifies the person’s emotional mood and makes it appear to be insignificant, I get what they are saying.

But states are different creatures.  They aren’t place dependent.  People dependent.  Money dependent.  They are simply there.  And they are more than just the feeling that’s being projected.  For example, people who might be sad for a while may not experience anything else but that sadness.  Whereas people who are depressed also have trouble sleeping, have changes in eating, are restlessness or lethargic, have slowed thinking and memory issues, experience trouble making decisions, entertain thoughts of self-harm or suicide, and the list goes on.

The causes of depression are different too.  A major life event can trigger depression in someone, but there are underlying issues at work as well that go along with that stressor:  According to Harvard Medical “Certain areas of the brain help regulate mood.  Researchers believe that, more important then levels of specific brain chemicals, nerve cell connections, nerve cell growth, and the functioning of nerve circuits have a major impact on depression”.

So once again, like we see with so many mental illnesses, depression is in the brain.  Not in the situation.  That’s why for depression, meds are needed to regulate this brain chemistry and function, as well as counseling in order to learn better ways to cope with what is happening.

Last night, I was feeling extra down, and put on Facebook that I was really struggling with depression.  So many people reached out to me, and just knowing there is so much support and care out there really helps.  It doesn’t make me ‘less depressed’, but it does make me feel important and loved.  Anyone can use that anytime!

A couple years ago, I never would have posted anything like that because I was still trying to pretend my way through life, and hide the pain I often experience with bipolar.  But like I’ve said before, how can I expect to work against mental health stigma if I’m not genuine myself?  How hypocritical that would be!  When I was in Florida, I posted about how people on the beach were looking at the scars on my legs from when I cut myself.  Once again, if I can’t put issues out there that are related to mental illness, what am I preaching ‘lessen the stigma’ for?

I bought this artwork, created by the Chariho Youth Task Force for their Mental Health Awareness Campaign.  Digital copies of this art can be purchased here for $5 and all proceeds go to mental health programs and information.

BUT, maybe there are people who think it’s OK to talk about depression.  That’s not ‘ugly’.  However, how can you even mention that you’ve cut?  That’s bloody and gross and scary.  Here’s the thing though, cutting does go along with my illness.  It just does.  I hate that I’ve done it.  I hate my scars.  I hate how people look at me when I’m at a pool or my shorts ride up a bit.  Even more though, I hate having an illness that has made my brain so confused at times, that cutting is the only outlet given for any type of psychological relief.  I know how hard that is to understand.  I don’t understand it.  But I know it’s a demon to fight when it rears it’s ugly head, and that at times, I’ve lost the battle.

This reminds me of my Human Sexuality class and what we were discussing the other day.  I was lecturing about development from pregnancy through birth, and when I got the part about what pregnant women often suffer, everyone was OK until I said the word “hemorrhoid!”  EVERYTHING  else was met with nods…but this??  Shouts of UGH and looks of horror!  WHY?  Because hemorrhoids are ‘icky’…nothing we really want to think about!

There are a lot of things about mental illness that are ‘icky’ too.  But we need to hear it all.  The way it really is.  That’s the only thing that will help people speak up and out about mental illness, and then get the support and help they need.

The mentally ill should not be living in a society where there is shame in having a disease/disorder/illness that’s out of their control.  We have the control to get help for it (if it’s available and affordable…2 BIG ifs), and learn better ways of coping with it.  But it’s always there.  Always.  Just like diabetics can be medicated appropriately and watch their diet.  Even if the diabetes is controlled though, it’s still there.  It’s a lifelong disease.  It’s not going to disappear.

The mentally ill don’t have diseases that will just disappear either.  And, the mentally ill won’t disappear, no matter how much we try to NOT talk about the issues that aren’t easy to face.  Don’t we all have the right for care, support, and understanding, regardless of where our disease or illness originates?  Don’t we all have the right to talk about our illnesses?  Our struggles?  Without stigma or shame? I believe we do.  And I’m going to keep doing it until everyone can do the same.

Kristi xoxo

Discussion on Domestic Violence Victims

In one of my classes, we are currently talking about Domestic Violence and a discussion ensued yesterday regarding whether or not victims love themselves prior to getting into a relationship with the abuser.

Some of my students said you can love yourself, but still fall for the abuser because of their manipulation, idolization, and mask they wear.  Others said that only someone who didn’t love themselves would fall for that…would be vulnerable to their attention.

But, here’s the thing:  abusers are smart.  They are predators.  They know how to bait their hooks and trap their prey.  NO ONE would stay with a person who beat them on the first date!  Of course not!  All of my students say they would never ever stay with an abuser, but the truth is that many of them might do just that because what they don’t realize is how insidious the abuse is.  Abusers start out by idolizing you.  Making you feel like you’re the most special person in the world who can share anything and everything with them.  They are your soul-mate and once that’s felt, the hook has been set.  The next step is chipping away at what confidence, esteem, and love they have for themselves; slowly these things are chiseled away and the abuser is getting you to a place where you aren’t who you used to be.  They are devaluing you…making you feel less than…and eventually, your emotional/psychological boundaries have been compromised.  Also, that stuff you felt you could share with them?  That’s being used against you now.  They know your ‘weak spots’ and will use them any way they can.  Then, physical boundaries start to be tested.  A grab here.  A push there.  All the while seeing what your reaction is.

Have you ever heard the myth of a frog in boiling water?  It goes like this:  put a frog into a pot of boiling water and he’ll squeal and do anything he can to hop out.  BUT, put him in tepid water and turn the heat up very low to where the boiling is a process.  Because it’s so slow, the frog never fights it.  It’s in an environment that slowly becomes natural to them.

Now, even though I truly believe that anyone can be a victim of abuse by an abuser, I do believe that vulnerability to abusers can be attributed to different things.

  • First, I do think situations we go through can make us more needful of attention.  Partnership.  Togetherness.  It can validate someone who’s been rejected.  Abandoned.  Although we all need our own internal sense of self and self-love, external experience of this is important to us too.  
  • I also believe certain emotional traits can be seen in victims.  In this article, by Dr. Toby Goldsmith, he says that women of DV often:
    • have a poor self image
    • have low self-esteem
    • believe, unrealistically, they can change their abuser
    • feel a sense of powerlessness
    • believe that jealousy is ‘proof’ of love
  • Along with this, I believe personality traits can be tied to victimization too.  For example, people who are highly empathic have more sensitivity…they can align themselves with people more and feel with everything they have inside of them.  It’s more than just their heart that feels…it’s all of them that feels.  They are capable of giving so much in a relationship, and might believe that their care and love will ‘fix’ an abuser.  A great book to read regarding this is: The Empaths Survival Guide by Judith Orloff.
  • I’m a huge believer in the MBTI (You can take a free, online test and learn more about this assessment tool here: Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and feel there are some aspects of personality as described by the MBTI that could be correlated to DV:
    • Extroverts – extroverts often have difficulty with boundaries and let people in more easily than others.
    • Introverts – are often more isolated which is something attractive to abusers.  Also, they are more prone to depression and may also take on more blame because of ruminating over the situation and seeing blame in themselves.
    • Intuitionists – although you would think people with strong intuition would be BETTER at determining someone could be abusive, I believe (based on my own experience) that the gut feelings instead say things like this:  “But, I know there’s a good person in there!”  “I can tell they are suffering too, and I just need to figure them out.”
    • Feelers – feelers tend to make decisions based more on a personal, emotional level (thinking with their hearts more than their heads) and tend to personalize situations which can lead them to feeling guilt or culpability in abusive situations.  
  • In terms of mental disorders/illnesses, I think the following can be tied into victimization:
    • Borderline Personality Disorder
    • Dependent Personality Disorder
    • Bipolar Disorder
    • Depression 
    • Anxiety Disorders
  • I also study a lot about attachment.  The attachment babies make to their first caregiver, usually their mothers, makes the ‘framework’ for all other future attachments.  This attachment can be secure or insecure:
    • Secure attachment makes the baby, and then later adult feel that:  
      • They’re lovable as they are
      • They are important and valued
      • They are worth protection and understanding
      • They are safe
    • Insecure attachment makes people feel that:
      • They’re not good enough to protect and keep safe
      • They have little value and are unimportant
      • They are not worth soothing and understanding
      • Because of these, insecurely attached individuals feel unsure of themselves in relationships and live with feeling that they aren’t worth their partners love and effort.  
    • Obviously, my belief is those with insecure attachments (one being the avoidant type and the other being the ambivalent type) don’t see the value, worth, and loveableness they have and will stay with an abuser out of insecurity and perhaps the feeling that they don’t deserve any better.
    • Lastly, we can’t ignore the fact that people who grow up in abusive homes have a much higher chance of becoming abusers, or victims, themselves.  In the PBS documentary No Safe Place, it’s said: “We (also) know that women who come from a family in which they witnessed their mother being battered are more susceptible to developing what is called ‘battered women’s syndrome’.  Such women may come to believe there is nothing they can do to get out of an abusive relationship.”  

So, the answer to understanding the ‘whys’ behind women and abuse are complicated, and can be a combination of everything above, or circumstances unique to the victim themselves. 

The take away is this:  abused women and men should never be judged for being, or staying, in a domestically violent relationship.  The dynamics of power, control, physical/verbal/psychological/sexual abuse, isolation, financial issues, threats, using children as tools of manipulation, ownership of weapons, lack of family/social support, etc. can all make it difficult through impossible for the victim to leave safely, even if the abuse is severe.  No one deserves to be abused.  NO one.  But every victim deserves our compassion. 

    Kristi xoxo

    When to Tell?

    So, I have a bit of a ‘date’ today.  I’ve been chatting with this guy I met online and we’re meeting for a snack and drink at a downtown eatery this afternoon.  I’m not sure what I feel about it…this dating thing is still so new to me!

    After my 3 divorces (!), I subsequently married each man I saw afterwards.  There was really no ‘dating’ around!  And, my life was different then.  Or at least it felt different.  I hadn’t been diagnosed bipolar yet, and was still very much pretending in my day to day life.  Obviously, the bipolar affected my relationships, but I think it was because I didn’t have that ‘label’ yet, I still had more confidence in what I brought to table with these men than I do now.  Hmmmm…I wonder if others feel like this?  Once that label is stuck on, all of a sudden you see yourself differently?  As a bit more less than?

    I need to be better at doing this.  I’m adding this to my ‘goals’ of the year.

    Anyhoo, after hubby 3 (Ron) and I divorced, I was involved with a man for 3 years.  VERY bad at the start with a lot of abusive behaviors, cheating and abandonment happening; better the 2nd year but still with issues; and much better the 3rd year.  Better enough I thought we were in a place that was strong enough, and moving ahead well enough, I could take some time for myself to get me back to where I needed me to be.  This didn’t set well with him though, and last Oct., I walked in on him (naked!) with another woman in what was supposed to be ‘our’ apartment, just like my house was ‘our’ house as well.  (I also think there was someone else there, but I guess that’s not the point.  THEY didn’t come out of his bedroom screaming at me to leave!  All while using the furniture I provided for US!  DRAMA!!!!).

    We haven’t ‘talked’ since then…he refused (es) to speak to me on the phone and blocked me from everything except e-mail.  So, when I needed to communicate with him regarding my things and all, it was only through this means.  (Why is it that the person who has cheated, is the one who acts like the victim?  Am I the ‘bad’ guy?  For walking in?  For not realizing what he was feeling?  For not doing enough?  As an empath whose feelings run VERY deep, which is common in bipolar, I blame myself for most things anyway).

    Not long ago, he e-mailed that he had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  I had always known there was something wrong.  We knew he had PTSD from his 3 deployments in the Middle East (and this is why I forgave him so much and took him back so many times…he was traumatized from his time in the Army.  I understood this).  During that first year, I thought he had Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but the BPD really does make more sense in terms of his patterns in relationships (not just ours).  He wanted me to know this to explain himself in terms of how he acted and what he did in our relationship.  And I did appreciate this.  It gives me much more understanding of everything that happened.  (And yes, I still have feelings for him.  Feelings run deep in me.  He’s the one who lost feelings for me.)

    ANYHOO…here’s the thing:  I saw us as BOTH “damaged”.  BOTH mentally ill.  I didn’t have to pretend in front of him.  He understood, or I thought he understood, my illness as well as I tried to understand his.  It was kind of like we were ‘matched’ in terms of these ‘bad’ disorders.

    I did date a lawyer for a month or so around Christmas, and at first it was going really well.  I thought this might be something lasting.  Then, we had our first argument and he was just mean!  Not mentally ill.  Just mean!!

    So now I’m meeting this guy today.  And here’s what I struggle with and really think about:  what man would want to take on this woman with bipolar?  AND, when do you tell them you have this?  Obviously, not on a first date!  I’m not that open!!  BUT, not after a dozen either.  And, since I am really open about it…on Facebook, here, Tedx Talk, etc., someone could dig a bit on me and find out for themselves.  Then what?  Hmmmm…

    That’s a fine line when you think about it.  You want to be candid in sharing who you are, but you also want them to get to know you as a person, before the issue of a mental illness is brought forth.

    Why is it that if I had diabetes, this wouldn’t be an issue at all?  But with mental health, it’s like a shame you have to hide until the time is ‘just right’!  Like you have to figure out when to drop this ‘bombshell!’  Because that’s what it is:  a bombshell that could break anything you might have built to that point.

    When this DOESN’T happen, that’s when we’ll know the stigma against mental health has been shattered.

    I’m not ashamed to have this illness.  It’s just what I have.  But I guess I am ashamed of how others see it.  Crazy.  Unstable.  Nuts.  Bipolar has a bad rap.  And I understand why.  It’s a toughie.  One that is going to cause issues at times, but that doesn’t mean it has to define the relationship as a whole.

    I’m going to tread lightly with this.  If I like this guy (and I don’t know…I’m really not that excited for this.  I’m more dreading it than anything but like my son says, if you don’t want to be alone forever, you have to get out there) I guess I’ll just have to use my own judgement on when to tell him.

    And maybe, I need to think about how I see myself.  I use the word damaged.  But is that fair to me? Does that mean I see others with mental illness as being damaged?  (Actually, I don’t.  Just me!) It’s true that my brain is actually “damaged” in that it doesn’t work like other brains.  Hello?  Mental illness!  But am I less than because of that?  I FEEL like that.  But is it actually TRUE?  I don’t know.

    Kristi xoxo

    Can we start the conversation?

    Ever notice how anxious some people get when the subject of mental illness comes up?  It’s funny to me how people throw around words and say things like “She’s so anorexic…eat something girl!”  Or, “God, how bi-polar!”  Or even, “Yea…people who have that are crazy!”  THEN, you tell them you have a mental illness.  And all of a sudden, things change!  “Oh…I didn’t mean YOU!  I meant…you know…other people who are ‘really’ sick!”



    Hmmmmmm…

    So I have bi-polar.  Not self-diagnosed; really diagnosed…neurologist, psychiatrist, etc.!  And I say that because it’s almost fashionable to have this now!  Someone feels good one day, and not so good the next, and suddenly BAM!  They think they are bi-polar.  Nope.  You’re just experiencing the highs and lows of life.  And that’s good!  You don’t want this brain disease which is what it really is.  MRI’s show differences between bipolar and normal brains, and take a look at this: 

    A new study shows that the blood of bipolar patients is toxic to brain cells and may affect the connectivity ability of neurons. … Bipolar disorder (BD) is a severe and complex mental illness with a strong genetic component that affects 2% of the world population.”  



    Even when I was a little girl, I felt different.  Like there was a flaw people could readily see in me, even as young as kindergarten.  I didn’t really understand how to interact with my peers like I saw others do, and there was something inside of me I couldn’t explain but could feel.  Other kids could brush things off but I was always so emotional.  

    In the 3rd grade, I completed a story called “All About Me.”  There are a couple of tells I wrote, that in retrospect showed whispers of a mental illness.  One was the question:  What do you wonder?  While other kids wrote “Why the sky is blue” or “Why giraffes have spots”, I wrote: “I wonder why I’m alive.”  Another question asked what confused me, and I wrote “When 2 or 3 people are talking at once.”  There was just too much going on in my head for any voices to be heard.

    High school was tough for me. There were so many things that would go through my mind, that at times I thought I was going crazy.  Like a blender full of fruit and ice, on full blast, but without a lid.  I was just all over the place.  To feel like I had some control over my life, I started dieting, and developed anorexia nervosa within months.  When my boyfriend broke up with me my junior year, I crashed my car into a tree because the emotions were too overwhelming for me to process.   


    Decades later, after my 3rd divorce (!), a few things happened.  I still loved my ex-husband and missed him terribly.  My mentor and friend from the community college where I teach passed, and I got involved in an abusive relationship.  At the same time, my nephew was killed on the USS McCain, a man started harassing,  threatening, and stalking me for which I was being blamed, and I had surgery for precancerous cells.  This was too much for me and I broke down.  

    Before this, I never really ‘believed’ in nervous breakdowns.  Now I do.  I started cutting myself pretty badly.  I stopped eating.  Stopped showering.  Attempted suicide. Finally after working with doctors and counselors, I was  diagnosed with bi-polar and the “me” inside myself began to make sense.  The emotions, the roller coasters, the busy head, the bad decisions, the impulsivity, the confusion, the hyperactive behavior, the obsessive/compulsive behavior, the out of control spending, everything.  

    Being diagnosed was such a freaking relief!  I knew I had something, and even though I am a Professor that teaches Psychology, I COULD NOT admit that something as serious as bi-polar was in me.  I didn’t want it.  I tried to fight against it all my life, and because of that, I lost husbands, friends, and even family members at times.  How could anyone understand me, if I couldn’t understand myself?  

    So, am I all better now?  Ha!  Nope.  Not at all.  I’m in the process of changing meds and will be seeing a psychiatrist in a couple of weeks.  My meds aren’t as effective, but mood stabilizers have caused me suicidal ideation in the past.  We’re not sure what to try.  Some meds that are out there now have such terrible side effects.  It’s almost a process of weighing which is worse??  The depression or losing muscle coordination?  The mania, or having the compulsion to cut myself?  I know side effects are so different in people, but psychotropic meds truly are scary.  Hello!  They are working in your brain!

    I see a counselor every week, and she asked me yesterday how I’ve been able to function all these years like I do.  I’ve been teaching for 25 years, and raised my son.  And here was my answer to her: “I’ve had too!”  I didn’t have a choice!  I was the one that usually was a main support in my marriages, and there was never a question of me having to work.  And, I’m single now, and my future is dependent on only me.  My retirement that I have to keep working towards for a few more years.  

    But here’s the thing:  people don’t see the struggle on the inside, when you are presenting what you need to do on the outside.  Simple as that.  There are days I force myself out of bed to face the day.  I collapse when I get home from school because I’m exhausted and I need to take my meds.  When I wake up from that nap, I usually feel terrible.  And it takes me a long while to get myself up again for the evening.



    Working out helps with some of this…but can also feed (no pun intended!) into my eating disorder.  

    SO…I created this space for all of us. And any of us.  We can talk about mental illness here with no judgement.  No stigma.  We can be ourselves.  We can take off any masks we wear and be genuine.  I’ll always listen.  And I thank you for doing the same with me!  🙂




    Kristi xoxo